Entry Info

11th (Sun)
Jul 2010

[day105] Is it really hard to enter Syria?

We used a "Service" taxi which is a sort of shared taxi arranged by the accommodation to go to Damascus from Amman. With the 3 girls I met in Dahab and Petra, we set off to the North again.

The Syrian Visa Issue

Thinking of Syria, visa issues often come to mind. According to the information from the net, it would be a very hard work to get a Syrian visa after departure from Japan. Perhaps, the embassies in Istanbul or Cairo could grant it. Nevertheless, the current situation seemed very different from the info. The guy from my Cairo accommodation told me that it is impossible to get a visa from the embassy. The travellers from the North that I met in Dahab said they could get the visa at the border without any problems. Besides these, the guy of Amman's accommodation assured us that the Syrian border would issue the visa to the most foreigners except for Americans. Anyway we had no choice but to trust their words and go to the border without the visa.

And the result was, it was a snap indeed! The driver who had many experiences guiding foreigners to here helped us a lot. He explained the detail of the immigration card which was written in Arabic only. After filling out the form, what we had to do was just submit the form and pay for the visa. They didn’t even ask any questions. The officer at the counter only said "Oh, Japanese, Welcome!" That's all. Maybe there are more questions and procedures to enter Australia.

There are two kinds of visa available for Japanese at the border, a Transit Visa for 48hours cost 8USD and a Tourist Visa for 14 days cost 24USD. But the officer at the border was quite amiable and even though one Japanese girl with me declared that she would stay in Syria for 10 days and go back to Japan directly, he somehow granted her aTransit Visa which is actually cheaper but only for 48 hours. He confirmed it will be fine in her case. For my case, I applied for a Transit Visa as I was planning to go to Lebanon on the next day and the visa was issued immediately.

However the prices and their attitude vary significantly according to your nationality. Just for reference, I asked people around us, Koreans had to pay slightly more than us and British and Australian were charged more than 100USD for a single visit visa. As far as I asked the Transit Visa was granted to Japanese only. I really feel privileged at being Japanese. I should keep and improve this good reputation towards Japanese during this trip with appreciating our forerunners.

Incidentally, the reason why Syria is so harsh granting visas to people from English countries is without any doubt related to the Palestinian problems. The founding of Israel and the big confusion afterwards were originally triggered by the British government's contradictary promises made with Jews and Arabs at the end of WW1. Well actually I didn't care about this story before this trip. Those history and geography topics had been just a lullaby in the classroom but once visiting the actual site, those stories became interestingly realistic.

Special Dinner at Damascus

For this occasion, I stayed in Damascus just for one night and headed to Lebanon on the next day. (Therefore I'll write about Damascus later). As the fellowship with the girls would be over here, we decided to go to a nice Chinese restaurant together. But according to a guidebook Damascus has only one Chinese restaurant in a luxurious hotel called Cham Palace. Though the book said it would be reasonable, the building of the hotel looked the real five star. A lobby with a big fountain, restaurants with formally dressed waiters, the 3 girls were bit overwhelmed with the situation. About myself, I wouldn't be touched with this degree maybe thanks to the first class trips.

The quality of the restaurant was not impressive unfortunately. The taste of the meals was good but the service of the waiters was terrible as if they misunderstood that luxurious means just snobby. Maybe our jeans looked too shabby but not having had my companions, I would've got out from the restaurant for their superior attitudes. The real luxurious services are usually full of hospitality. I suppose in the Middle East countries probably apart from Dubai, those expensive places rarely have their strong competitors and tend to neglect the quality of service. They should be able to make it better as they have a great culture of welcoming travellers.

Going to Lebanon

As mentioned before, I was going to Lebanon from the next day. It would be quite new in a way as I hadn't travelled alone for more than 1 month since Luxor.

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In order to present well organised articles, this blog is not updated on real time base. (You can find "Entry Info" on the left panel, "updated on" and "travelled on") Regarding to the current information about me, please follow satoshionoda_e on twitter. I'm tweeting almost every day.

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